Renée El-Gabalawy, MA, PhD, C.Psych.

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Renée El-Gabalawy, MA, PhD, C.Psych.

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Research Discipline(s): Behavioral Sciences, Psychiatric Epidemiology, Clinical

Primary Title: Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist

Additional Titles & Affiliations: Department of Clinical Health Psychology, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Department of Psychiatry (adjunct), Department of Psychology (adjunct), Research Scientist at CancerCare Manitoba


Perioperative Mental Health, Medical Trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental and Physical Health Comorbidity, Medical Technology

My patients directly influence my research questions. I aim to conduct clinically-meaningful research to improve mental and physical health.

Research Summary

Dr. El-Gabalawy’s Health, Anxiety, and Trauma Lab has three related primary streams of research.

  1. How does mental health impact adverse health events (medical trauma), and what are common psychological outcomes following such events? Understanding psychological sequelae (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), delirium) of adverse health events such as the onset of a life threatening illness (e.g., cancer), major surgery and associated complications, admission to the intensive care unit, and COVID-19. Dr. El-Gabalawy is interested in what factors might contribute to particular psychological outcomes.
  2. What are feasible interventions to improve health outcomes in adverse health events? Developing targeted interventions aimed at reducing negative psychological and other health-related outcomes following adverse health events. For example, Dr. El-Gabalawy is interested in preoperative psychological interventions using medical technologies (e.g., virtual reality) aimed at improving health outcomes following oncological surgery. She is also interested in using medical technologies for pain management. For example, she has developed an online, interactive program for chronic pain management, and is also examining the utility of virtual reality for acute and chronic pain.
  3. What is the impact of anxiety and trauma-related disorders on physical health and chronic pain? Understanding the relationships between anxiety and trauma-related disorders (e.g., PTSD) and physical health conditions including chronic pain. These investigations include understanding co-occurrence, mechanisms that elucidate co-occurrence, and correlates/outcomes of co-occurring conditions (e.g., risky health behaviors, healthcare utilization).


  1. To understand the psychological impact of adverse health events and procedures (e.g., surgery).
  2. To understand how psychological factors and disorders (e.g., traumatic stress) contribute to the onset of disease and disease outcomes.
  3. To enhance patient mental health through their medical trajectory.
  4. To increase access to effective interventions through technology to improve patient mental and physical health during adverse health experiences.

Research Biography

Dr. El-Gabalawy is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Clinical Health Psychology and Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine in the Max Rady College of Medicine. She also holds adjunct appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology (Fort Garry), and is an Adjunct Scientist at CancerCare Manitoba. As a Vanier Scholar, she received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from UM in 2015. She also completed a predoctoral research fellowship supported by a CIHR Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement at Yale University in 2013. Before joining the faculty at UM, Dr. El-Gabalawy completed her Clinical Psychology residency at the Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston Consortium) with a behavioural medicine and civilian trauma clinical emphasis.

Dr. El-Gabalawy has been successful at obtaining millions of dollars of funding locally and nationally as both co- and principal investigator. She has over 115 peer reviewed journal publications and book chapters, and has presented research findings in over 150 local, national and international conference proceedings. In 2021, she was awarded the Aubie Angel Young Investigator Award in Clinical Research. Dr. El-Gabalawy serves on the editorial boards of General Hospital Psychiatry and Depression & Anxiety. Finally, she is the chair of the external advisory board for the Center of Perioperative Mental Health, Washington University.


  • Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba: Aubie Angel Young Investigator Award in Clinical Research
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    Featured Publications

    • El-Gabalawy, R. (2020). Patient awareness during critical medical events: Communication is key. Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, 67(3), 289-291. doi: 10.1007/s12630-019-01497-3
    • El-Gabalawy, R., Mota, N., Sommer, J. L., & Edmondson, D. (2018). Prevalence of illness-induced post-traumatic stress disorder in the United States. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(8), 783-785. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000635
    • El-Gabalawy, R., Sommer, J. L., Pietrzak, R., Edmondson, D., Sareen, J., Avidan, M. & Jacobsohn, E. (2019). Post-traumatic stress in the post-operative period: Current status and future directions. Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, 66(11), 1385-1395. 10.1007/s12630-019-01418-4
    • Sommer, J. L., Reynolds, K., Hebbard, P., Mota, N., Roos, L., Sareen, J., Devereaux, P. J., Srinathan, S., & El-Gabalawy, R. (in press). Healthcare-related correlates of preoperative psychological distress among a mixed surgical and cancer-specific sample. Journal of Psychosomatic Research
    • Kaster, T., Sommer, J. L., Mota, N., Sareen, J., & El-Gabalawy, R. (2019). Post-traumatic stress and cancer: Findings from a cross-sectional nationally representative sample. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 65, 11-18.doi:

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